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Mon 7th Jan 2013 - Be At One, Beds and Bars and Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Story of the day:

Be At One Group reports turnover up, Ebitda down as it gears up for expansion: London-based cocktail specialist Be At One, in which Piper Private Equity acquired a significant minority stake in October 2011, has reported a year of reduced Ebitda as it gears up for expansion in the wake of the private equity investment. Turnover rose 11 per cent to £9,410,245 in the year to 31 March 2012. Ebitda fell during the period from £1.6m to £1.1m. The company said: “This was primarily due to the re-organisation of head office following the buy-in of Piper as we geared up and recruited an operations team that is ideally placed to deliver the next stage of expansion. During the year, cash flow generated from operating activities decreased from £1.7m to £30,000, primarily due to investment in head office and a conscious effort to significantly reduce creditor levels. The business has continued to invest in new sites with £1.6m spent on fixed assets in this period, an increase of £800,000 from the previous year. The financial position of the business remains strong with total assets less current liabilities increasing to £1.4m in the period from £1.1m the previous year. As a result of the investment of cash generated in new sites fixed assets increased to £3.7m from £2.7m.” Gross profit at Be At One was 69 per cent during the most recent financial year and like-for-like sakes grew by 2.6 per cent. Pre-tax profit was £140,009 compared to £1,090,508 the year before. Piper Private Equity acquired a significant minority stake with a plan to expand by three or more sites per year over a period of four years. The company opened its thirteenth site, in London’s Gresham Street, in the autumn of last year.

Propel Multi-Club conference: The first Propel Multi-Club conference takes place at One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA on Tuesday 19 March and multi-site companies can book two free places each on a first come, first serve basis. The speaker list will be unveiled later this month. E-mail jo.charity@propelinfo.com to book places.

Propel Quarterly magazine available online: The winter 2012 edition of Propel Quarterly magazine is now available to view online at http://content.yudu.com/Library/A204bg/PropelQuarterlyWinte/

Industry news:

Former Hotel Inspector Ruth Watson launches judicial review over food hygiene rating: Suffolk hotelier Ruth Watson has launched a legal challenge after inspectors raised concerns about hygiene at her hotel. Watson, former star of The Hotel Inspector on Channel 5, hit out after The Crown and Castle in Orford was given a one-out-of-five rating for food hygiene. This means “major improvement necessary”. It has led to Mrs Watson, who co-owns the hotel with her husband David, to begin the process of obtaining a judicial review of the decision. She said in a statement: “We strongly disagree with the score we have received from the environmental health officer for Suffolk Coastal District Council, removing our previous maximum score under the scheme. As someone who has worked in the hospitality industry for nearly 30 years, I fully accept there is always room for minor improvements. However, part of the problem appears to be that the boundary between taking food safety very seriously, as we always do, and being allowed to cook top quality local ingredients in the way our customers want, is being irrevocably blurred.”

Waitrose boss warns on food price inflation: Waitrose managing director Mark Price has warned that food price inflation could hit five per cent later this year. He said: “We’re seeing input food inflation of around three to 3.5 per cent, but we expect it to go up to as much as five. But you can’t ever say how high these increases will end up being. The one safe thing to say is that demand will out-strip supply. It is likely that food inflation will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. In some commodities, the increases will be massive. It’s bread, vegetables, all produce. The apple crop was down 20 to 30 per cent so apple prices have to go up. You have only seen the tip of the iceberg. It is impossible to say how long it will last.”

Survey shows business travellers favour fast food: A survey of six million business expense filings in the US in 2012 by Certify, a maker of cloud-based expense-management software, has found business travellers favoured fast food outlets. Starbucks came top with more than 20,000 transactions, at an average of $7.54, McDonald’s came in second on the list with 12,419 transactions averaging $6.73, Subway came third with 8,627 transactions averaging $11.88, Panera Bread was fourth with 5,156 transactions averaging $19.12 and Burger King came fifth - 4,091 transactions averaging $8.45. Restaurant choices appeared to reflect speed and convenience - hungry travellers grabbing something while running for their plane or hunting for a Wi-Fi connection, Certify concluded.

Shadow Pubs Minister launches attack on tenanted pub companies: Shadow Pubs Minister Toby Perkins has attacked the tenanted pub companies ahead of a parliamentary debate on a statutory code of conduct this week. Writing in The Sunday Mirror, Perkins said: “The unfair relationship between the pubcos, which own around 70 per cent of all our pubs, and their landlords has gone on too long. Pubcos have had their chance to prove self-regulation can work. Now Labour is calling for legislation that will ensure landlords pay a fair rent and are free to buy beer where they choose. It would lead to more pubs staying open, lower prices and fewer shattered lives – we can all drink to that.” 

Chris Evans – I want to become custodian of Langan’s Brasserie: Radio host and pub owner Chris Evans has reported that he wants to become “custodian” of Langan’s Brasserie. He is proposing the formation of the “White Knights of the Langan’s Round Table “– eight celebrity and business figures to buy the restaurant and oversee its preservation. He is due to meet Langan’s general manager Brian Chivaz to discuss the idea today. Evans said: “I think we need places like Langan’s to slow down in. Places where the great connectors and thinkers of the world can meet and greet and talk and ponder and let their minds wander for as long as they need to. A place where the whole world is turned, instead of just tables every hours for as much profit as possible.”

Company news:

Oakman Inns and Restaurants plans £4m EIS: Oakman Inns and Restaurants, led by Peter Borg-Neal, is planning to raise £4m via an Enterprise Investment Scheme to finance its ambitious plan to open four pubs in 2013. Borg-Neal said: “We have two sites already in the pipeline for 2013/14. One is a leasehold in Beaconsfield where we are on-site with an anticipated opening date of April 2013. The site will be named The Beech House and we are spending £850,000 on its development. The other is The Crown and Thistle a freehold in Abingdon, which we acquired for £1.6 million in September 2012. We are currently in negotiations with the local conservation officer and hope to be able to start work on a refurbishment by late spring on a project to which we have committed £1.5 million. We would also hope to acquire and develop two other sites by the end of the financial year. To fund these projects and we are looking to raise £4 million via an EIS scheme in the very near future”. Oakman has reported a profit before interest of £230,000 in the year to 1 April 2012 on turnover up 22 per cent to £7.6m – it lost £306,000 the year before. Gross profit increased by £1m with gross profit margin increasing from 30.7 per cent to 38.3 per cent from £1.9m to £2.9m. Borg-Neal said: “Sales continue to build steadily, with comparables growth of around six per cent year to date. We will exceed £9 million turnover for the current year 2012/13 and Oakman Inns will generate EBITDA per site well in excess of £300,000. Under the leadership of Jill Scatchard, our human resources manager, we are constantly building our investment in our people and are seeing the benefit across our operations.” Meanwhile, the company is reconsidering its decision to sell its stake in The British Larder, the Suffolk gastro-pub that recently published its own cookbook. Borg-Neal said: “We are in talks with a number interested parties regarding The British Larder. However, we are becoming rather reluctant sellers due to the ever-improving performance of the business and, especially, the phenomenal success of The British Larder: A Cookbook For All Seasons. Whichever direction we go in the most important consideration is that The British Larder gets the capital it needs to grow. Even if Oakman does sell our company stake I will want to remain as a shareholder on a personal basis - as will some of my colleagues.

European hostel provider Beds and Bars reports turnover and Ebitda increase: Beds and Bars, the pan-European hostel provider headed by Keith Knowles, has reported Ebitda rose seven per cent to £2,961,127 in the year to 31 March 2012, up from £2,807,377 the year before. Turnover rose to £27,820,274 compared to £26,069,096 in the year previous – up five per cent on a like-for-like basis despite the “effect of a weakening conversion rate on the company’s euro denominated incomes”. Profit before tax was £347,683 compared to £420,168 the year before. The company stated: “During the financial year, specific projects to renovate the Hammersmith Belushi’s Bar and the conversion of a hotel building in Bruges to a premium cabin style hostel were completed. The refurbishment of the company’s new joint venture site in Barcelona continued during the year, with subsequent opening in September 2012. The site is a fantastic addition to the group’s portfolio and represents the latest evolution of our combined Belushi’s bar experience and superior hostel accommodation offering over 400 beds via a combination of our premium cabin style beds and private en suite bedrooms. The group continues to leverage its position as the most established and geographically diverse hostel and bar operator in Europe.” Beds and Bars also launched a bespoke property management and customer relationship system, which is unique in the hostel industry and provides a superior customer experience during the booking process.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen moves into profit before interest payments: Better burger concept Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which is 73 per cent owned by Nando’s, has reported a profit of £685,000 before interest costs of £878,000 in the year to 25 March 2012 – the company lost £4,724,000 the year before after an impairment charge of £6,428,000. Turnover rose 3.9 per cent to £39,050,000 from £37,579,000 the year before. The company stated: “The company achieved full year profit before restaurant opening costs, cost of fundamental re-organisation and interest of £1,031,000 (2011: £2,544,000). During the year, the company opened two restaurants, compared to four in 2011, taking the total number to 53. The company will open further restaurants over the coming years.”

Mail on Sunday reports Cote to be sold “any day” for £120m: The Mail on Sunday has claimed, in an interview with restaurant investor Richard Caring, that the sale of French brasserie chain Cote with a price tag of £120m is to due be announced any day. Caring told the newspaper: “We have not seen any drop in the number of people coming into our restaurants. Whether it’s top of the line or Cote, people are slightly more conscious of cost. So the numbers are up – bums on seats as we call them – are up five to six per cent, but the equivalent spend is down. I think you’ll find that in 12 months more restaurants will be closed than open. We are at saturation point. You are either great or you close. You’ve got to be the best at what you do – or don’t do it.”

Anglian Country Inns reports double-digit sales growth in December and files annual accounts: Anglian Country Inns, the award-winning operator of gastro-pubs, has reported double digit like-for-like sales growth in December. Director James Nye said: “The trading patterns were slightly different, with a quieter start to the month than anticipated but the second half was stronger, especially the week leading up to Christmas. One site set a new record by netting £75,000 in a week. It seemed that while people still had an appetite for coming out, and food sales improved healthily, wet sales struggled to follow suit. However, we were very pleased with trading for the period on the whole and are looking forward to what 2013 will bring.” Meanwhile, Anglian has reported turnover of £4,968,242 in the year to 31 March 2012, up from £3,791,024 the year before. Profit before tax was £91,841 compared to £203,529 the year before as a result of site opening costs. The company stated: “The company opened a new outlet during the year and the trading results are, as expected, reflecting the start-up costs relating to that outlet. The outlet is now fully operating and adding to the overall profitability of the company.”  The company accounts also reported its flagship site, The White Horse in Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk, has been valued at £3m. 

McDonald’s receive flak over plans to double the number of Edinburgh sites open until 5am: McDonald’s has received criticism over plans to double the number of restaurants in Edinburgh open all night. The company has submitted plans to keep the drive-through in Gorgie Park Road open until 5am – its third such extension bid in recent weeks. Last month, the franchise in Craigentinny Avenue North was given the green light to open until 5am, while its counterpart in Newmarket Road is currently applying to keep sit-in dining available until 5am all week. McDonald’s already had four city restaurants opening until 5am before the latest applications. Nick Hindle, senior vice-president of McDonald’s UK Corporate Affairs, said: “If extra security is needed then we would look at that. It hasn’t been an issue elsewhere. We take our responsibilities on health very seriously and we’ve recently reduced salt and sugar in our food. In terms of obesity, the average McDonald’s customer eats in one of our restaurants two or three times a month, so we need to keep things in perspective.”

Havant Brewery moves to bigger premises: Havant Brewery, which was set up in the wake of the closure of Gales by Fuller’s, is moving to larger premises in the town. Mike and Caroline Charlton are moving their thriving business out of their garage into large new premises in the heart of Havant town centre three years after setting the business up. Mike said: “It all started because Fuller’s closed down Gales Brewery in what was essentially a hostile takeover. It was a brewery with a very long tradition and it annoyed me. I went back to home brewing again and we looked into our finances and decided to start our own brewery.”

Orchid pubs to launch pyjama project: A total of 85 of Orchid’s family pubs will be launching a brand new campaign called ‘The Pyjama Project’ delivering warm sleepwear and bedtime books to young carers aged 5 to 12. Taking place during National Storytelling Week (26 January to 2 February), customers will be able to donate children’s pyjamas or bedtime books. The pyjamas and stories will be gifted to Honeypot, a charity that provides respite breaks for vulnerable children and young carers, giving them time away from the stresses of home life. The pubs will be holding pyjama parties throughout National Story Telling Week in their Fuzzy Ed’s Funhouses to raise extra cash to help Honeypot. Children will be able to join the Fuzzoids for lots of fun and games as well as unlimited play in the Funhouse. There will be juice and biscuits for everyone and £1 from each ticket sold will be donated to Honeypot. Marketing executive Amy Garrett explained: “The Pyjama Project offers a great incentive to get customers back into our pubs once all the festivities are over and the kids back to school. It’s often a quieter time of year for us, so by creating a new reason to visit, it should give our venues a nice boost and help a great cause at the same time.”

Domino’s UK to sponsor new peak-time show Splash!: Domino’s Pizza is the sponsor of ITV1’s new Saturday night peak time show Splash! which hit TV screens on Saturday evening. The diving inspired reality TV show features Olympic bronze medallist diver Tom Daley as a mentor to the stars. Simon Wallis, sales and marketing director at Domino’s, said: “Our decision to sponsor this brand new show fits perfectly in line with our target audience, promoting Domino’s at the ideal time and in the right place. ITV has an impressive track record for prime time family entertainment, and I’m sure Splash! won’t disappoint.” Domino’s sponsorship of Splash! signals the latest phase of the brand supporting peak-time family shows. The leading pizza delivery brand has previously sponsored Britain’s Got Talent and Red or Black.

Pret A Manger to open latest coffee format site tomorrow: Sandwich shop Pret A Manger will open its latest coffee shop format venue in a former Curry’s shop tomorrow in Tunbridge Wells. A local blogger write: “The store itself looks fantastic. (We) had a sneak peak inside last month and there appears to be lots of space, unlike the more cramped Prets you can see in London.”

Wetherspoon ditches plan for two new pubs in Aberdeen: Plans for two more pubs in Aberdeen have been abandoned by JD Wetherspoon because of high tax rates. The company announced last month that it would be opening 30 new pubs during 2013 but chairman Tim Martin said that due to the Scottish Government’s high tax burden, plans for two more pubs in Aberdeen had been discarded.

Grand Union Bars reports 13 per cent like-for-likes in December: London-based Grand Union Group, led by Adam Marshall, has reported like-for-like sales were up 13 per cent for the month of December to hit £715,000 net, with a 25 per cent increase in like-for-like food sales. A spokesman said: “This was mainly driven by increased pre-orders of corporate groups in our Paddington and Farringdon sites which recorded 24 per cent and 21 per cent like-for-like growth respectively. New Year’s Eve proved to be equally popular as last year, with pre-booked ticket sales increasing by 12 per cent on 2011. There was however a reduced walk-in footfall due to the weather, but this did not dampen the festive spirit!”

Loungers reports record trading; 12 openings for 2013: Loungers, the café bar company headed by Alex Reilley, has posted the busiest seven days in its history with net sales exceeding £600,000 in the week beginning 10 December 2012. Meanwhile, the firm enjoyed a like-for-like sales increase of 4.1 per cent for the month of December. Total year-on-year net sales growth was up much more, by 48.5 per cent, helped by Loungers’ continued rapid expansion. The group, which opened its 29th site, Marino Lounge in Brighton, on 19 December, revealed that its recently opened Cosy Club in Cardiff was its best performing unit in December with net sales of £208,000. Loungers managing director Alex Reilley said: “We are extremely pleased with turnover in December and in particular how strongly the five Cosy Clubs traded. To register an almost 50 per cent increase in net sales is great and we’re pleased with our like-for-like increase for the month, particularly as we had a very strong December in 2011”. Loungers opens its 30th site, Grupo Lounge in the Bristol suburb of Westbury-on-Trym, later this month, which will be the first of 12 anticipated openings in 2013.

Bistrot Pierre to open in Plymouth’s Royal William Yard in March: Le Bistrot Pierre will open in the Cooperage Building in Plymouth’s Royal William Yard in March. “Each of our bistrots is styled a little differently to complement the building they’re in,” said Rob Beacham, co-founder. “But, whilst our look changes between each bistrot, customers must be able to expect the same personal, attentive service and high quality provincial French food wherever they choose to dine with us.”

Greene King to convert Six Bells, Oxford to Meet and Eat franchise: The Six Bells in Headington, Oxford will become the latest Greene King pub to be converted to the company’s Meet and Eat franchise. The company states: “The Greene King Meet & Eat franchise is simple - you can run a 21st century pub from day one whether you’re experienced or new to the industry. You get a newly decorated pub, ready to trade with food and drink menus set up for you. We give you operating standards that we’ve developed for your business and we support you with training, marketing, advice and guidance, in addition to leading entertainment technology and a stable of world class beer brands to serve to your customers.”

Simon French reiterates buy recommendation on The Restaurant Group: Panmure Gordon leisure analyst Simon French has re-issued a buy recommendation on Restaurant Group shares ahead of a results update this Wednesday (9 January) He said: “We expect the group to report a robust end to the year benefiting from increased footfall at leisure parks. As per our note of 1 November, “Coast to Coast: strength to strength” we forecast 3 per cent like-for-like sales growth for the year, 25 net new openings anda an 8bps improvements in the EBIT margin. Consensus expectations are for £64.2m profit before tax (23.7p EPS) and our forecasts are modestly ahead of consensus. The stock is inexpensive, in our view, trading on a 2013E adjusted EV/EBITDAR of 7.6x and yielding 3.3 per cent. We see scope for medium-term forecast upgrades from better than expected trading, an increase in the rate of new openings and a return of capital to shareholders. Therefore we reiterate our Buy recommendation and 420p Target Price.”

Star Pubs and Bars reports 65 per cent of pubs signed up for Machine Games Duty: Star Pubs & Bars has reported that 65 per cent of its 1,200 pubs had signed up, by the end of 2012, for the new Machine Games Duty and the company is on track for all of its pubs to be registered by the implementation date. The company has arranged for all its lessees to be visited and given help filling in their forms, which it will then process on behalf of its lessees. Said Chris Moore, trading director of Star Pubs & Bars: “We recognise that the process has been complicated and confusing so rather than do what most other pub companies have done and leave it to lessees to register for the tax, we have arranged for them to be visited and given help on site.”

Roomzzz plans two more hotel sites: Yorkshire-based hotel brand Roomzzz has unveiled its plans to expand with further sites in Chester and Liverpool in 2013. After enjoying 87 per cent occupancy rates throughout 2012, the six-year-old hotel chain opened new hotels in Newcastle in November and Manchester in December. The Newcastle sites hit number one on Trip Advisor in under four weeks of trading. Roomzzz UK managing director Mark Walton believes its success is based on “consistency, service and location”.

World’s largest Cheesecake Factory site opens: Alshaya, the first international franchisee for the Cheesecake Factory, the US leading casual dining restaurant brand with average site takings of $10m, has opened the largest site in the world – and its third site. Located on the ground floor of the mall adjacent to the Ski Dubai slope, it occupies 2,120 square metres and has 526 covers. “The response to The Cheesecake Factory’s international debut in the UAE last summer and at The Avenues in Kuwait last month was truly overwhelming, and we are delighted this momentum is being sustained by opening in such a prime location at Mall of the Emirates,” said Duncan Garrood, president of food division at MH Alshaya.

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